Jack of All Trades: Liza Burby, Editor-in-Chief of Anton News Group
By AMANDA DAMON and REBECCA SIMON
On Friday, January 9th, Editor-in-Chief of Anton News Group Liza Burby visited Jericho High School’s New Media Communications classes to teach aspiring journalists what she has learned throughout her more than three-decade-long career in journalism. Ms. Burby said, “I was six when I decided I wanted to become a professional journalist – I was a little precocious.” Ms. Burby began her career as a professional journalist at the age of seventeen with the publication of a feature she had written on the first female firefighter in New York City. Although the article sold for $75, the affirmation she received in turn was priceless.
As a college freshman at St. John’s University, Burby worked for the Queens Tribune under Mitch Albom, renowned author of novels including “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” During this period she interviewed the likes of Representative Geraldine Ferraro and Governor Mario Cuomo. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Ms. Burby went to work as an editor of a tennis magazine. Though she had never taken a sports journalism class during her time in college, she continued being an editor for sports journalism publications for three-and-a-half years. Burby said, “Never say never. Be open to new experiences. Be willing to write about everything, even if you think you don’t want to. In fact, write about what you don’t want to.” Ms. Burby has lived by her own advice; she has been a freelance journalist throughout her career.
The JerEcho New Media Communications students learned that in order to be a successful journalist it is essential to be “organized, a self-starter, and have the desire to learn.” Ms. Burby epitomizes her words, having written over 40 books, 38 of which are for children. Through this venture as well as her experiences at both The New York Times and Newsday, she has learned the ins and outs of publishing and the importance of self-advocacy. In January 2009, when the magazine division at Newsday was shut down in the wake of the Great Recession, Burby decided to start her very own parenting magazine, Long Island Parent. She is a self-described “positive person,” but losing her position at Newsday was one of the most difficult setbacks in her life. Using this loss as motivation, the seemingly impossible task of starting her own magazine became one of her most successful enterprises. In the face of great economic adversity, Liza Burby was able to raise over half a million dollars in advertising by forming close relationships with local businesses and corporations. Ms. Burby said, “When I was in college, they didn’t fully teach the business aspect of journalism. However, to be fully successful, you need to have good marketing skills in addition to good writing skills.” Thanks to her dedication and diligence, Burby was able to create one of the most popular parenting magazines on Long Island.
Editor-in-Chief of the JerEcho Taylor Kang shared her thoughts on Ms. Burby’s visit, “I was really impressed by Ms. Burby. Too often students are discouraged from pursuing journalism and other forms of publication, but I think Ms. Burby’s career demonstrates that these fields are actually ripe for the picking. There will always be room for improvement and innovation in journalism, and I’m so excited to see any future collaborations between the JerEcho and the Syosset-Jericho Tribune.” Ms. Burby effusively advocated for young writers to pursue their passion for journalism. She believes this field is far from dead. She said, “If you are a good writer, a hard worker, and seize as many opportunities as possible, you can be a successful journalist. And remember: always being careful as a journalist will never go out of style. Don’t listen to someone who’s sour about journalism. There are always opportunities for good writers.” Additionally, New Media Communications teacher and advisor of The JerEcho, Suzanne Valenza, offered her opinion of the event. She said, “Ms. Burby is a testament to all young people that they can make a good living on their own terms and in a field about which they are passionate.”
In parting, Liza Burby said to The JerEcho members, “Believe in this career and the journalism field. The term journalist encompasses a lot of things. Everything I’ve done has led to the next job, and I am suited for my job because of all my past experiences. You have to be a compassionate person to be a journalist. We [journalists] are human beings. What we do can change people’s lives for the better or for the worse. I’ve enjoyed this process and my career has just been fun.”
The JerEcho is thankful to have taken part in this experience and hopes to maintain future relations with the exceptionally talented and enlightening Liza Burby.